I’m pretty sure I was in middle school the first time I read To Kill a Mockingbird. I remember thumbing through my mother’s old copy and being enthralled by the story of Scout’s childhood. And I remember when I finished the story, my mom asked me what I thought to be a very strange question (at the time). She asked me: “Who is the mockingbird in the story?” And being young, I didn’t understand what she meant at first.
Later, when I was in high school, I had to read the novel again, and this time I realized what my mom had meant: a mockingbird should not be killed because it does no harm. And by that same measure, John Robinson should not have been killed because he was accused of a crime he didn’t commit, which makes him a figurative “mockingbird.” When I told my mom that I had figured out the answer to her question, she told me to never forget it, because it was a very important thing to remember. And for all these years, I still remember that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.
Rest in Peace Harper Lee.